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The question I asked earlier on the Riddle of Epicurus was really a question on God's omnipotence and omnibenevolence, but here, I want to ask about God's omniscience and omnibenevolence.

If God is both omniscient (He already knows your problems, what you want, etc.) and omnibenevolent (He's ready to help even the gravest of sinners), then, why do we need to pray? In other words, why does God expect us to pray? Why aren't prayers simply answered without praying? How can a God who expects one to pray to solve their problems be infinitely benevolent? Is He, then, limited in His compassion? Doesn't the fact that He expects a devotee to pray and only help those who pray prove that He is in fact not omnibenevolent? If however, He doesn't know anything about any devotee's problems therefore expects them to pray on a regular basis, then doesn't it prove that He is not infinitely knowledgeable?

Or is this still an unresolved problem in Hindu philosophy?


Note: This is not a duplicate of Why one should worship God? because the poster there just wants to know if there is a scriptural requirement to pray to God, if yes, what's that? Whereas, this question is about the apparent contradiction between the need to pray and God being both omniscient and omnibenevolent.

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    It's certainly true that if the purpose of prayer was to make your desires known to Brahman, it would be utterly pointless considering that Brahman is omniscient. But that's not the purpose of prayer. A prayer is not simply a declaration of desire, it is an act, specifically an act of requesting that your desire be fulfilled. And as an act, it is capable of making you deserve to get your desire fulfilled. And why does that matter? Because that is crucial to the Hindu answer to the problem of evil; see my answer here. – Keshav Srinivasan Sep 25 '17 at 23:58
  • Omnicompetence need not presuppose voluntary action. It merely indicates ability and willingness. He does not "expect people to pray" for for self-aggrandizement; prayer and seeking his benevolence are a function of the jeeva's freewill. If the jeeva was completely daivAdhIna, then yes, God voluntarily protects and saves- this is seen in many cases of saranagati and pure bhakti. As long as freewill is exercised, God respects it and continues to remain a sakshi and keeps giving the jeevas more rope. However, when the jeevas reach the end of their rope & have still not attained the paramatma 1/2 – user1195 Sep 26 '17 at 1:52
  • Then God finally takes action and performs the act of laya at the end of creation-cycle. Since the jeevas could not reach him, he takes them all in himself. So, God is indeed omnibenevolent. He does take voluntary action; just not in the time-frame that is comprehensible to the human mind attuned to the modern way of the "here and the now". 2/2 – user1195 Sep 26 '17 at 1:57
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    If God is both omniscient and omnibenevolent, then, why do we need to pray? Exact same question asked by Arjuna from Krishna when Lord Krishna was giving Geeta Updesha to him.I heard it long ago so don't remember exact answer of Lord right now. Krishna's reply was something like this, We need to do tapas or pray to make ourselves remember about Lord. If we won't do it then we will lost our devotion day by day. May be his mean that if we won't pray then we will forget Lord since he is not visible to us like other. So pray is just to remeber or make stronger our connection with Lord. – Rishabh Sep 26 '17 at 4:14
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    Via prayers, ego is reduced. Shortage of ego makes us receptive to grace. With grace, we derive our own latent power to make our desires to work by our own wish. It is not like a God siting over there in the heaven or somewhere , accepting or rejecting our wishes or desires. – Mr. Sigma. Oct 2 '17 at 17:46
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There are no contradictions with God being omniscient and omnibenevolent and we still needing to do our bit of effort to attract his grace.

Lord Shiva, in the two verses given below, has nicely explained, why our efforts will be needed.

GavAm sarpih sharirastham na karotyanga poshanam |
Swakarma rachitam dattam punastAmeva poshayet || (78)
Evam sarva sharirasthA sarpivat parameswari |
VinA chopAsanAm devi na dadAti phalam nrinAm (79)

.............

Cream (sarpi), as long as it lies in the body of the cow, does not nourish anyone. But when [with effort] it is collected, treated and used, it does promote nourishment. (78) The Divine (Parameswari) is likewise there spread in each body; but without proper adoration and evocation, upasana, it (she) does not yield fruit to man.

KulArnava Tantram Chapter 6, Verses 78, 79.

So, efforts from our side is very much needed. In case of the verses the effort is that of collecting the cream from the cow to extract and utilize the cream's nourishing power.

The purport of these verses is that just like the utility of Cow's cream (its nourishing power) is ever existing in its body but without our efforts to extract it and make it usable for practical purposes, its as good as simply non-existent, similarly God's grace, which is always existing everywhere, is unachievable without the devotee's sincere efforts.

IMO, to expect things to happen automatically by God's will or grace is against the natural order of things.

We need to do either Sacrifice (loosely translated as Yajna) or perform austerity (Tapas).

Sacrifice

Even the Purusha (of the Purusha Suktam) offered himself as the offering to ensue creation at the onset. So, creation did not happen automatically. It needed something and sacrifice was that thing in that case.

Yat purushena havishA (1)
devA yajnam atanvata (2)
vasanto asyasid Ajyam (3)
grishma idhmah sharad havihi (4) ||

...........

With Purusha as offering (1) the devAs performed a sacrifice: (2) the spring was the Ajya, (3) summer the fuel (samit), and autumn (sharat) the offering (4).

Rig Veda 10.90.6

Similarly, if we study the "manifestation of Goddess LalitA" episode of the Brahmanda PurAna, we will find that, in spite of finding the Gods and creation itself in deep trouble, Goddess did not automatically emerged and been the savior. It needed then too, a huge sacrifice where all Devas and the whole creation was offered as the Havi (oblation). And it is only then LalitA Paramesswari manifested out of the Homa-Kunda.

Maha Shambhu explained:

A. This is called as Maha Yaga. (great fire sacrifice)

B. I am (assuming the form of Vayu) the Hota (the priest who makes the offerings in a Homa) in this Yaga (fire sacrifice).

C. My Chidagni itself is the fire in this Yaga.

D. The last of the seven seas, i.e., Jala Samudra (Water Sea) has now dried up. The huge pit so formed itself is the Homa Kunda (fire pit where Homa is performed)

E. The remaining six great oceans constitute the six drops of ghee which is used as offering.

F. Srishti (creation) is of five types (i) Manasa Srishti (ii) Jarayavee Srishti (creation-taking place through the womb.

G. Human beings), (iii) Anda Srishti (creation taking place through eggs) (iv) Swedaja Srishti (creation taking place through sweat) and (v) Udbhijja Srishti (creation taking place by sprouting). These five Srishtis (creations) are the sacrifice animals in this Maya Yaga.G. Bhoomi (land), Parvata (mountains), Jala (water), Vayu (air) and Akasha (space) these five are the substances used in this fire sacrifice. Agni element (one of the five elements) being a part of my Chidagni can not be a substance to be offered.

H. At the end of this great fire sacrifice, all of you (the performers of the Yaga) should jump in to the Homa Kunda (fire pit). While doing so, you must possess absolute devotion.

I. Then, Lalita Parameshwari will manifest.

Austerity

Apart from sacrifice, Tapas or austerity also works and is needed to achieve anything whether it's something small or big.

11.234. All the bliss of gods and men is declared by the sages to whom the Veda was revealed, to have austerity for its root, austerity for its middle, and austerity for its end.

11.237. Medicines, good health, learning, and the various divine stations are attained by austerities alone; for austerity is the means of gaining them.

11.243. The lord, Pragapati, created these Institutes (of the sacred law) by his austerities alone; the sages likewise obtained (the revelation of) the Vedas through their austerities.

Verses from Manu Smriti

So, even Gods can't expect things to happen on their own, they have to do their bit of UpAsana, whether in the form of Sacrifice or Austerity.

Even the Lord of creation can not create without Tapas.

With such being the Divine Law, i think its extremely unreasonable to expect God showering his grace on us without we doing anything to earn that grace.

That's why its being said:

VinA ChopAsanAm Devi na dadAti phalam nrinAm .... DhyAtah smritah pujito vA stuto vA namitohapi vA..

........

Without worship, Devi does not give sAdhaka the fruits. One has to meditate upon her, remember her, worship her or please her (by recting stotrams) or offer prostrations to her..

  • I wish you just used the singular 'God', the monotheistic God, throughout your answer because my question is about the singular God. "even Gods can't expect things to happen on their own" - does it mean Gods are not omnipotent? – sv. Sep 27 '17 at 16:19
  • @sv. The first BQ answers ur Q nicely as to why efforts are needed. Rest are just additional info although hugely related. If u see even the Purusha of the Veda which is regarded as supreme needed to offer himself in order to create. So, the creation at the beginning even did not happen automatically. – Rickross Sep 28 '17 at 5:11
  • @sv. You can take Purusha as the single God. He was alone at the onset when nothing else was there. But even he could not have created without sacrifice. He sacrificed himself. So, that's the point i highlighted in my answer. One needs to perform either Tapas or Sacrifice. Seemingly this rule applies to everyone including even God. IMO, the first 2 verses are excellent. Just like the utility of Cow's cream (its nourishing power) is ever existing in its body but without our effort to extract it and make it usable for practical purposes, its as good as – Rickross Sep 28 '17 at 6:55
  • * simply non-existent, similarly we need to do efforts. @sv. – Rickross Sep 28 '17 at 6:56
  • @sv. I have updated the answer by highlighting and including my comments. – Rickross Sep 28 '17 at 7:11
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The answer as to why divine grace does not descend unless we pray or do some kind of spiritual practice is that God wants the creation to continue. If God uses His powers to help all creatures unasked then all creatures will instantaneously attain moksha and creation will end immediately after it is projected.

'A man does not have to suffer any more if God, in His grace, removes his doubts and reveals Himself to him. But this grace descends upon him only after he has prayed to God with intense yearning of heart and practised spiritual discipline. The mother feels compassion for her child when he sees him running about breathlessly. She has been hiding herself; now she appears before the child.'

'But why should God make us run about?' thought M.

Immediately Sri Ramakrishna said: 'It is His will that we should run about a little. Then it is great fun. God has created the world in play, as it were. This is called Mahamaya, the Great Illusion. Therefore one must take refuge in the Divine Mother, the Cosmic Power Itself. It is She who has bound us with the shackles of illusion. The realization of God is possible only when those shackles are severed.'

The Master continued: 'One must propitiate the Divine Mother, the Primal Energy, in order to obtain God's grace. God Himself is Mahamaya, who deludes the world with Her illusion and conjures up the magic of creation, preservation and destruction. She has spread this veil of ignorance before our eyes. We can only go to the inner chamber only when She lets us pass through the door. Living outside, we see only outer objects, but not that Eternal Being, Exitsence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute.'

The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, August 24, 1882

A Brahmo devotee: 'But sir, if She likes, She can give freedom to all. Why, then, has She kept us bound to the world?'

Sri Ramakrishna: 'That is Her will. She wants to continue playing with Her created beings. In a game of hide-and seek the running about soon stops if in the beginning all the players touch the 'granny'. If all touch her, then how can the game go on? That displeases her. Her pleasure is in continuing the game. Therefore the poet said: Out of a hundred thousand kites, at best but one or two break free; And thus dost laugh and clap Thy hands, O Mother, watching them.'

The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, October 27, 1882

I am adding this section in answer to the question in the comment as to why God does not fulfill the wishes of a Jiva for worldly things and or moksha.

Let me first answer the question about worldly things through a concrete example. It is entirely possible that 15 people want the promotion to a single job. God must surely have some criterion to choose between 15 people if God is to avoid the charge of being biased. Moreover, God being omniscient and omni-benevolent sees that promotion to that post would be harmful to all 15 people. So in that situation God granting the wishes of even one Jiva would be harmful. Thus God leaves it to the karma of individuals to gain worldly things.

God has already through scriptures and the experience of Yogis laid down the minimum standards for attaining moksha. God will thus not just grant a Jiva moksha if he has not attained the minimum standards of overcoming lust, greed, anger etc. If god does grant a Jiva moksha without any standards then such a thing will be unfair to Jivas who are doing strenuous spiritual practice to attain minimum standards.

  • "If God uses His powers to help all creatures unasked..." - well there might be some creatures who are enjoying the creation and have no interest in moksha. So I guess 'Why do we need to pray?' in this context applies only to jeevas who just want their wishes fulfilled and not realize the ultimate OR those who want to realize the ultimate and not interested in the worldly life. Then there are lot of jeevas living as animals all the time who don't pray and don't even know what moksha is. – sv. Sep 27 '17 at 0:50
  • I thought I read a question on this site which goes like 'Why doesn't God liberate all souls automatically?' but can't find it now. I think your answer addresses that but not the one I asked here. My question is limited to fulfilling worldly wishes and/or moksha when the jeeva is really asking for it. I don't find 'The creation is God's cosmic playground' and 'God knows what's best for you' as convincing explanations. – sv. Sep 27 '17 at 0:59

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